Obituary: Harland James “Swede” Svare
Harland James “Swede” Svare, Former NFL Football Player and Coach, Dies Aged 89.
Harland spoke about his footballs days like they were old war stories. He would go to battle dressed in his uniform: a helmet with leather straps, shoulder pads, a jersey, and a worn in pair of cleats. He would be grinning as he told you about his various broken fingers or elbows and laugh when he spoke about his hits on the other team. He was proud to be called Wanda, fighting alongside Sarah and Meg; these girly names were secret codes for the weak side, strong side, and middle linebackers, calling who was going to blitz the quarterback.
His football career began at Washington State University where he is remembered as an outstanding player in the Athletic Hall of Fame. At WSU he studied physical education and met some of his lifelong friends.
In 1953 he was drafted into the National Football League by the Los Angeles Rams and was later traded to the New York Giants. It was with the Giants where he made his biggest impact as a player.
He would often reminisce about his minutes in the 1956 championship game, the Giants beat the Chicago Bears 47-7, or about the devastating loss the Giants suffered in what football lore would call “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” His smile would widen when he remembered playing with football legends Sam Huff, Cliff Livingston, Rosie Greer, Frank Gifford, Charlie Conerly, and Andy Robustelli to name a few.
In 1960 he made the transition from player to coach and in 1963 became the youngest head coach in NFL history; he would hold that title for 44 years. His biggest impact coaching would come in 1969 and 1970 when he was recruited by Vince Lombardi to serve as the Washington Redskins’ defensive coordinator. After his career in the NFL ended, he dedicated his work to helping professional and college athletes train at a specialized course he created called “The Patch.”
Although most of the world will remember Harland for his football career, his friends and family will remember him for his generous and loving spirit. He’s fondly remembered by his friends with stories of him always picking up restaurant tabs or lively conversations over a couple of beers late into the night.
His family remembers him with stories of the silly songs he would sing and his unwavering support and unconditional love. As much as he loved football, he loved his family more and spoke with love when he talked about his wife Annette, daughter Mia, and son-in-law Cory. Memories of him bouncing his grandchildren on his knees or snacking in the fridge despite the ‘do not eat’ labels will forever be cherished.
Harland passed away April 4th, 2020 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado at age 89 and will be missed deeply and remembered as a witty, loveable, and sweet “Giant”. Instead of a halo, he probably sports a football helmet and wings that smell like freshly cut grass and chalk paint.
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